State DUI Laws

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North Carolina DUI Laws

Got a DWI in North Carolina? Here is what you need to know.


From the second you start interacting with an Officer, s/he is noting everything you say and do to use as evidence in the case against you.

  • Stay in your car and leave your seatbelt on unless the officer asks you to step out.
  • Provide identification.
  • Note: How easily you find your driver’s license, registration and insurance will be noted on the Officer’s report.
  • You are allowed to politely refuse to take field sobriety tests (FSTS). There is no law requiring you to do these tests.
  • When you do field tests, you are giving evidence that can be used against you.
  • Some officers will tell you they will take you to jail if you don’t do the tests, but the officer is going to take you to jail anyway.
  • You are also allowed to refuse any pre-arrest roadside preliminary alcohol test (PAS).
  • If you are over the age of 21 and are not on probation, you can refuse this type of on-scene breath test.
  • If asked to take a post-arrest Chemical Test (breath, blood or urine test) you should do so, but should request a private consult with an attorney before doing so.
  • When your driver’s license was issued, you agreed to take such a test if ever pulled over as stated under the Implied Consent Law. Refusal to submit to the Chemical Testing is an automatic license suspension or revocation with no option for a restricted license. You will also be charged with a fine, mandatory prison time and may receive other enhanced penalties.
  • You do not have to give consent for the police to search your car. Police can only do so if one of the following applies: you agree to a search, have been placed under arrest, evidence is in plain view, they have probable cause, someone has been detained in the car under the “stop and frisk” rule, a search warrant has been obtained, or if your car is impounded. If none of these rules apply, politely refuse and do not explain why.
  • Remember, your words can be used against you in the case.
  • Usually, the search question is veiled and phrased like:
    • You don’t have a problem with me looking in your car?
    • You don’t mind if I look in your car, do you?
    • I’m just going to take a quick look inside, okay?
  • You can politely refuse to answer questions.
  • Usually, the officer will ask you a few questions about what you’ve had to drink.
  • A simple response of “I can only answer your questions on the advice of my attorney” can go a long way in the outcome of your case.
  • You don’t have to call an attorney right then. That simple statement effectively stops any questioning by invoking your constitutional rights.
  • Even when the officer reads Miranda rights to you, the answer should be the same.
  • After you are placed under arrest, you will either be taken to jail or a blood draw lab to be offered a chemical test. After completing the test, the officer may give you a form asking whether you want to preserve a sample of your test or waive a sample. Always ask that a sample be preserved.
  • As soon as the Police have taken their tests, immediately make a clear request for the opportunity to obtain an independent blood draw.
    • Your attorney can explain the benefits of this simple request, as they can be huge!

It is not required by law to have an attorney for your case, but if you don’t have one, there is little to no chance you will have your charges reduced or waived. Judges have little patience for self-represented defendants.

  • Consult with a few dui attorneys to see what the best strategy for you is.
    • There is no cost to do this and will provide insight to your options
    • A public defender may be able to help, but their efforts will be limited to the criminal side of the case and will be unable to assist you with the DMV actions that occur concurrent with the DWI.
      • For most people, the loss of their license is the biggest problem that arises as a result of their DWI.
    • Request for a copy of your police report at the headquarters of the department that was involved in your arrest.
      • This is not mandatory, but you will be able to have more fruitful consultations with attorneys in developing your defense strategy.

Administrative Law Court – Motor Vehicle Hearings

  • Request an Administrative License Hearing at your Initial Appearance or within 10 days of the date of your license revocation to contest its validity.

Criminal Court – City, County and State Courts

  • First Appearance: At the First Appearance, you will be informed of the charges against you and the possible punishments if you are convicted.
    • The First Appearance may also include a Preliminary Hearing but only if there is a judge present. At the Preliminary Hearing, evidence can be presented by both sides to determine if you have committed a crime.
    • You will then move on to the Formal Arraignment if the court believes you are guilty after this hearing.
  • Formal Arraignment: At the Formal Arraignment, you must enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead not guilty, you will then move on to the trial.
  • Trial: At the trial, the prosecutor must prove you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt and this hearing has the highest burden of proof.
    • For misdemeanor DWI cases, you will most likely go to district court and for felony cases you will most likely attend superior court for trial. Your trial will be held in the county in which the charges were filed.
  • Studies show if you complete your DWI penalties you only have an 8% likelihood of ever getting another DWI and if you don’t complete them, you have a 28% likelihood of getting another DWI.
    • You are 3.5 times less likely to ever get another DWI by completing your penalties.
  • Getting through your penalties is no easy task and requires more understanding than most people have about DWIs and penalties.
  • These penalties are not created to be effortless or painless but knowing the who, what, when and whys will make your process getting through the penalties much better.
  • With your DWI, you will find timing is everything.
    • Starting a penalty too early or too late will cause issues and cost you valuable time and money.
    • Selecting the right providers for you will reduce these mishaps.
  • The systems administering the various penalties come from different governing bodies and they don’t always align properly and often don’t make sense.
  • It is no secret DWIs are complicated, each one a little different than the other.
  • Comparing multiple providers and making sure they are the right one for you will be the best way in making it to the finish line.
  • When receiving a DWI in North Carolina, your license will either be suspended or revoked. The time period in which it is suspended or revoked will vary depending upon how many DWIs you have received and the severity of the DWI.
  • To get your license reinstated, you must complete all of the necessary requirements: paying all court costs, reinstatement fees, restoration fees, and fines in full, completing your jail sentence and/or community service, completing a substance abuse assessment, ADETS education course and completing a possible treatment and rehabilitation program.
    • It is important to note that depending on your case, you may also be required to install an ignition interlock on your vehicle. Verify the details of your case with your attorney to see if you are required to have one.
  • Secure financing for your DWI as it is going to get expensive very quickly.